By 2016, Points of Light commits to educate, connect, and invest in an increased number of civic entrepreneurs launching early stage for-profit, non-profit, and hybrid civic start-ups. Points of Light will help build the ecosystem supporting civic enterprises in key regions that have emergent, but still fragmented entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Points of Light will extend the Civic Accelerator national platform by developing a complimentary regional initiative, and double to 300 the number of civic entrepreneurs who come through its program. Simultaneously, the program will attract and engage a greater number of mentors, coaches, and advisors as well as business, academic, and government partners. The program will reach out to new partners to implement regional programming in the Southeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest to extend the core accelerator programming to include new fast-pitch events and short-form accelerator sessions, and to further connect entrepreneurs to local leaders, mentors, and investors. New regional partners will include businesses, universities, entrepreneur organizations, and community leaders with vested interests in regional economic and community development. New national partners will include issue-experts, corporations, foundations, and research institutions focused on the Civic Accelerator's core impact areas (education, environment, economic development, and tech-for-good) as well as innovation and entrepreneurship.
Civic entrepreneurs who participate in the program, in turn, will engage over 375,000 individuals as they implement innovative solutions to problems in areas such as education, the environment, economic and community development, and technology-for-good. Finally, the Civic Accelerator will focus on gender, race/ethnic and age diversity in the recruitment of entrepreneurs, with a particular focus on having female founders and cofounders comprise at least one third of participants.
The Civic Accelerator's action plan for the Commitment period from July 2014 through December 2016 can be divided into three categories of activity. Given the nature and timing of the program, reporting in half-year (not quarterly) increments will be most meaningful.
First, the existing 12-week national bootcamp program will continue and scale. A new cohort of enterprises will launch in July 2014 and run through December 2014 for a total of six months (from recruitment through graduation). It will include 13 to 15 social enterprises and engage at least 30 civic entrepreneurs. Four more cohorts will run sequentially, every six months from January 2015 through December 2016. Each cohort will engage roughly 15 enterprises and 30 entrepreneurs. Total entrepreneurs engaged through this programming will be 150.
Second, for the period from July to December 2014, the Civic Accelerator will expand its base of content and financial partners to support a series of new offerings to include fast-pitch events. These events will be held twice per year, beginning in January 2105 and concluding in December 2016; they will be held in one of the regional target markets; and each will engage at least 15 to 20 entrepreneurs. Total entrepreneurs engaged through this programming will be 60 to 80.
Finally, regional mini-sessions or a short-form accelerator program will be adapted from the 12-week national program during the period from July to December 2014. During this phase, new financial sponsors and regional facilitators also will be recruited. From January 2015 through December 2016, the Civic Accelerator will run two short-form sessions per year in the regional target markets, with each session engaging 20 entrepreneurs. In total, this programming is expected to engage 80 entrepreneurs.
Seven out of ten start-ups, including social entrepreneurs, fail before they are able to prove their business models and have an impact. They lack access to best-in-class training and resources. Additionally, while recent studies show that different experiences drive innovative thinking and viable business concepts, existing support networks for entrepreneurs are not always inclusive of diversity.
In 2012, Points of Light, in partnership with Village Capital, launched the Civic Accelerator, the first accelerator program and investment fund in the country focused on civic ventures; for-profit and non-profit startups that engage people to solve critical social issues. The Points of Light Civic Accelerator is addressing gaps in the market and ecosystem, working with diverse entrepreneurs to help accelerate and scale their civic startups while tapping into the talents and assets of individuals, corporations, and community partners.
The core program runs twice a year, graduating 60 entrepreneurs from 30 teams. It involves a 12-week, bootcamp-style program, a broad curriculum which includes a peer learning component, and three intensive one-week, in-person sessions coupled with a virtual program as ventures return to home markets in between sessions. The Civic Accelerator also includes access to mentoring, networking, and capital. The program has a social investment fund, managed with partner Impact Assets, with two of the teams in each cohort receiving ,000 investments as selected by their peers. To date, the Civic Accelerator has 48 teams of early stage civic ventures in its portfolio.
The Civic Accelerator's founding supporters, PwC Charitable Foundation and Starbucks Foundation, provide financial and thought leadership support. Other partners include Blackstone Charitable Foundation as a Southeast regional sponsor, SAP as technology sponsor, and Hilton Worldwide as the official hotel sponsor. Points of Light works with other program partners including Stanford School, Smallify Innovation Labs, the Transformative Institute, and Lean Start-up.
Program Funding: The Points of Light Civic Accelerator was successfully launched and has executed its mission over the past four years with continued support from The PwC Foundation and The Starbucks Foundation, along with incremental support from other important partners. As the program expands to new regions and markets, it will be necessary to obtain funding from new sources that are committed to innovation and support of civic and social entrepreneurship. The ability to obtain multi-year and repeatable funding commitments will be critical to the long-term success of CivicX.
Capacity: As CivicX continues to expand and explore new geographies and markets, the organization's ability to deliver at a consistently high level of quality will be a challenge due to capacity issues. Scaling requires incremental investments in infrastructure and personnel.
Venture Funding: An industry-wide challenge will continue to be a lack of readily available funding for startups and early stage entrepreneurs, especially those in the testing or concept stage of development.
Market Saturation: Also an industry-wide issue is the fact that the number of accelerator and incubator programs continues to grow and their services continue to evolve and often overlap. As with all growing industries, the market will eventually reach a point of saturation, resulting in the consolidation, elimination or transformation of a number of programs. Establishing and articulating market differentiation will be critical to future success.
The Civic Accelerator is looking for national and regional partners, particularly in the Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and Midwest that can support civic ventures. Ideally, the program needs:Corporate partners to sponsor the accelerator program and to commit skills-based employee volunteers, both nationally and locally;Foundations to finance the accelerator programming and provide content (issues and outcomes) expertise, as appropriate;Angel investors, VCs, philanthropic and individual donors to support, connect, and invest in the civic startups through our seed investment fund as well as in follow-on funding for graduated ventures;Local entrepreneur-support organizations (local accelerators, incubators, social innovation institutes, and university programs) to develop the pipeline, act as program hosts, and connectors; Research partners to assist with assessment and measurement program efficacy, and support the continued refreshment of the curriculum design; andMedia companies to help raise awareness and engage a broad audience to support civic entrepreneurship.